Carolina Panthers

Could Victor Cruz add salsa to Panthers wide receivers group that needs seasoning?

New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz (80) was released on Monday, ending his popular run with the team.
New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz (80) was released on Monday, ending his popular run with the team. AP

The Panthers have had success signing veteran slot receivers to serve as mentors to their young wideouts.

One such veteran became a free agent Monday – and he happens to have ties to Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman.

The Giants released Victor Cruz in a cost-cutting move that freed up $7.5 million in salary cap space. Cruz, 30, had back-to-back, 1,000-yard receiving seasons, including a career-best 1,536 yards during the Giants’ Super Bowl season of 2011.

And while he’s been a shell of his former self in recent years following major knee surgery and various other leg injuries, Cruz is worth kicking the tires on – especially given Gettleman’s background with him.

Gettleman was the Giants’ pro personnel director when New York signed Cruz as an undrafted free agent in 2010.

Cruz became one of the Giants’ most popular players – with his salsa dances in the end zones and three consecutive seasons of at least 73 receptions and 998 yards.

Cruz told the Giants’ team site he has “a lot of good football left ahead of me.” If healthy, Cruz might be right.

Gettleman did well signing veteran slot receiver Jerricho Cotchery to a team-friendly, two-year deal in 2014. Besides becoming a consistent, across-the-middle target for Cam Newton, Cotchery also brought leadership and professionalism to the receiving corps.

When Cotchery left after the Super Bowl season of 2015, no one stepped up to grab that slot – or leadership – role in the receivers’ meeting room.

Gettleman would know as well as anyone whether Cruz can be that guy in Carolina.

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